City’s write-in candidacy issue goes to Mohave Superior Court
KINGMAN – Write-in City Council candidate Ken Watkins and his legal counsel Roopali Desai have filed suit in Mohave Superior Court alleging that the City of Kingman violated state law and City code in determining the top four write-in candidates from the primary election would not advance to November’s general election.
The verified complaint filed with the court states Watkins is seeking an order that would compel the City to issue certificates of nomination to those top four candidates: Deana Nelson, Scott Holtry, Harley Pettit, and Watkins. The issue stems from the allegation that the City used the wrong Arizona Revised Statute in making its determination that those four write-ins would not advance to November’s ballot.
The plaintiff, in court documents, points to ARS 9-821.01 as the proper statute to be utilized when determining write-in candidacy progression in non-partisan elections. Council elections in the City of Kingman are non-partisan.
According to that statute, which is referenced in court documents, “If at the primary election no candidate receives the majority of the votes cast … of the candidates who did not receive a majority of votes cast, the number of candidates who advance to the general or runoff election shall be equal in number to twice the number of seats to be filled for the office and the candidates who received the highest number of votes for the office shall be the only candidates at the general or runoff election.”
Watkins, Nelson, Holtry and Pettit would advance to the general election if that statute is applied to the Council race. However, Watkins alleges the City used ARS 16-645 in coming to its decision. That statute, he claims in his verified complaint, “only applies to partisan races.”
The plaintiff and his attorney write the issue is even more “confounding” when taking into account that the City used ARS 9-821.01, the statute for non-partisan elections, in declaring SueAnn Mello Keener will sit on Council. The verified complaint notes the correct statute was used to determine Keener as the winner of one seat.
“Thus, even though the City clearly understood it was required to use ARS 9-821.01 in declaring Ms. Keener the winner of one Council seat, it inconsistently, illegally, improperly and inexplicably utilized ARS 16-645 in determining that Ken Watkins, Deana Nelson, Scott Holtry and Harley J. Pettit cannot advance to the general election ballot.
“Upon information and belief, the City took this extreme step because by refusing to advance any candidates to the general election for the two remaining council seats, the current City Council has the power to fill the vacancies by appointment,” the plaintiff alleges in the complaint.
The matter will go to Mohave Superior Court for a show of cause hearing at 2:30 p.m. Thursday before Judge Lee Jantzen.